The Sensitive Child

Different children have different needs, and sensitive children can be amongst the most difficult to manage behaviorally. It can be incredibly easy to upset or even distress an overly sensitive child, which can make discipline quite a tricky task. Highly reactive or aggressive discipline can make his behavior immeasurably worse, so what are some of the strategies you can employ with a sensitive child?

1. Show Empathy for Sensitivity

Remember there is nothing wrong with your child.Accepting and relating to the way that he may feel about a situation will make you better able to help him through. Take the time to empathize with your child and his world view. If he is working under a misconception, don’t rebuke him for it; gently correcting him will elicit a much more positive response.

Remember that your child’s world view is bound to be different from yours, and he may feel a sense of injustice, fear, or loneliness that can manifest itself as anger. Take the time to work out why your child might be acting out.

2. Teach Him Problem-Solving Skills

A sensitive child could have a predisposition to be overwhelmed by potential hurdles in his day to day lives; as a result, some of the most powerful skills you can impart to him will be those of problem solving. Your child may struggle with concepts like how to approach a problem from a different angle, ask for help, or break down a problem into several parts.Patiently explaining and reinforcing these concepts will be hugely beneficial for your child.

3. Help Your Child to Cope with His Feelings

Coping strategies are important for your child in situations where he may not have the space to express or deal with his own feelings in the time or in the way that he likes. Self-calming techniques can be as simple as counting or throwing a ball against a wall; it’s all about experimenting to see what works for your child.

Having a few different techniques for him to fall back on is important, just in case it is impossible to use one of their strategies. Where possible, you should talk to a school counsellor or a classroom teacher about the calming strategies that work for your child so that he can help your child to use these strategies at school.

4. Reason with Your Child

Explaining complex things to a child may seem counterintuitive, but your six-year-old child’s curiosity and hunger for facts can be used to your advantage. Explaining the fine details to a six year old of how a vaccine works can reassure him about the perceived threat to his safety.

Anxiety and sensitivity towards a situation can distort your child’s view of a situation, so sometimes it can be effective to take a step back and talk through what has happened with him and ask what his perception of the situation is. This can tell you a lot about why your child might be reacting poorly to what is happening. Perhaps poor social behavior has roots in his belief that everybody hates him, which is simply untrue. You can point out the people who visibly value your child’s friendship.

5. Engage Him in Soothing Activities

Overscheduling a sensitive child can be counterproductive. Allow a little down time every day for him to do relaxing and soothing activities, such as reading, drawing, or even some quiet lie-down or nap time.

Sometimes, children will need a little time to reset and calm down, and providing your child with the opportunity to do this could prevent avoidable meltdowns and outbursts. This is a preventative action that could make all the difference.

6. Use Distractions

Sometimes, delaying or even preventing an extreme emotional response in a child is as simple as finding an effective distraction.Counting, reading, going for a run, focusing on something new, being asked a question about something unrelated—all of these things and many more can diffuse a potential explosion.

7. Give Him Praise

Praise is a huge part of reinforcing good behavior, and it is incredibly important for children to be praised as they are still establishing their self-confidence and self-awareness. Be sure to praise your child for bravery and effort in achieving his goals. It is important that your praise is not dependent on perfection or success, but rewards attempts that your child makes towards good behavior.

Children do not respond well to goals that they perceive as being unattainable, so breaking the massive task of good behavior into smaller parts can be incredibly effective in creating a socially confident and responsible young person.

8. Make Rules

Setting clear limitations and boundaries with your children will make it easier to enforce good behavior. Whilst it is incredibly tempting to be especially lenient with children that are prone to react badly to discipline, it is still your responsibility as a parent to instill in them the behaviors and values that will give them the best chance of becoming a responsible adult. Though it may be difficult to cope with the potentially extreme emotional response of your child, you will need to establish firm, but calmly-enforced disciplinary lines.

9. Avoid Pushing Him Too Hard

Putting pressure on a sensitive child can cause a backlash. If your child is visibly distressed by a situation or activity that is uncomfortable for him, it is not necessarily beneficial to try to push him into doing it. This can apply to social situations, afterschool activities, or big events.

Expecting too much can make anyone anxious, with your child included. Before you push your child to do something that is outside the scope of his normal activities and that he does not want to do, ask yourself whether there is another way to approach the activity.

10. Know When to Seek Professional Help

If the problem is getting too difficult for you or your child to cope, if it is effecting the way their home or school life functions, and if it becomes a struggle for all concerned, then it’s time to ask for help. There are so many services out there for parents and children to get advice, and your child’s school or preschool may have some of those services in place already. Ask around and find out what is available in your area.

Watch the video below to learn more about the sensitive child: